‘Insulting’—Mississauga Council members outraged over high-rise proposal on former public land that ignores affordable housing
It’s a familiar story.
The City of Mississauga sets height restrictions by involving the public, considers the historical character of an area and the need for human scale design to shape welcoming communities.
The dire need for affordable housing is built into policies by the same councillors at the Region of Peel who are responsible for City Hall decisions that should live up to their regional commitments.
And then developers come in and propose “outrageous” plans that often leave councillors helpless, knowing that attempts to force builders to conform with community expectations and Council-led policies can simply be defeated at the Province’s planning appeals tribunal.
Edenshaw Queen Developments Ltd. (a partnership between two companies) has proposed two high-rise towers—double the height restrictions for the small surrounding area in Port Credit. The land is the former Port Credit GO station south parking lot, located at 30 Queen Street East (the developers are now calling it 88 Park Street East).
In December the 1.48-acre lot was sold by Metrolinx, Ontario’s regional transit agency, after neither the Region of Peel or the City of Mississauga made efforts to buy the land. When questioned why the prime parcel of property was not purchased by a public institution to be used for much-needed infrastructure like affordable housing, officials claimed they were unaware the land was for sale, before walking back comments. Typically, anytime land owned by a public institution is put up for sale, other public institutions, including the other levels of government, are informed and given the first right of refusal, before the property is put on the open market.
The property is less than 125 metres from the Port Credit GO station and will have direct access to the future Hurontario light rail transit (LRT) system. It was rumoured the LRT station would be connected to the building through a tunnel, but the City of Mississauga confirmed with The Pointer that will not be the case.
At the July 5 Planning and Development Committee meeting, City officials seemed shocked when the proposed tower-development was revealed. Located steps from Lakeshore Road and in a major transit station area (MTSA) officials were expecting urban density.
But the proposed high-rise towers which would rise 40 and 42 storeys above the surrounding streetscape, twice the height of the next tallest building in the area, without any affordable housing, were not well received.
“This is an insult to the community. I can't believe that I've had to sit here and listen to this outrageous application, I just have to say it's unbelievable,” Councillor Pat Mullin said at the committee meeting. “And losing the parking is another slap in the face to the community.”
Metrolinx told The Pointer 426 parking spots will be impacted by the development.
“I gotta tell you, when I first looked at this application [for] two 40-storey buildings in that location, and to compare it to Lakeview [Village] which is a complete community…quite frankly, I was flabbergasted,” Councillor Matt Mahoney said.
The Port Credit Local Area Plan (2014) sets out specific parameters for building heights to ensure a “village feel” is still maintained while encouraging density and not blocking access to Lake Ontario. Heights differ based on streets and amenities nearby.
The proposed development is located in an area where density is encouraged, but at a maximum of 22 storeys. It’s unclear why developers, knowing full well the parameters of the area, would propose a project that’s twice the allowable height. Edenshaw did not respond to a request for comment.
The map above depicts the blocks where higher and lower density development is encouraged. Edenshaw’s project falls in the area where a maximum of 22 storeys is expected. Parameters are based on specific community input and to preserve Port Credit’s historical character.
(Port Credit Local Area Plan)
“I agree with everything that has been said, the density, the heights are unacceptable, and they are really excessive,” Mayor Bonnie Crombie said. “I don't think they are what we call ‘reasonable’ on this property.”
The highest building proposed in the area is one block away at 17 and 19 Ann Street. It is a 23-storey building with plans to maintain two heritage sites and create a public park space. Even this proposal has some members of the community upset.
Another “offensive” application is for 170 Lakeshore Road East, which is a proposed 17-storey building. This portion of Lakeshore Road East has a height cap of three storeys. Residents are frustrated developers continue to ignore local plans and fear precautions are not being used to ensure developments conform to policies based on community expectations and Council-approved planning.
In Ward 1, the massive Lakeview Village development on the former Lakeview Generating Station land along the eastern edge of the lakefront has one 40-storey building, which sparked months of resistance from members of the public. That building is planned 4.5 kilometres east of Edenshaw’s proposed high-rise.
“To say it needs to go back to the drawing board is probably a bit of an understatement,” Mahoney said of the current Edenshaw proposal.
The committee moved a motion for the project to be referred back to Edenshaw so the plans can be altered. It’s expected to be back at the committee late 2022 or early 2023.
The current design for the two towers would provide 1,139 units with ground and second-floor space for commercial uses. The building proposal estimates it could house about 2,520 people in mostly one-bedroom units (41 percent) and one-bedroom-plus-a-den units (31 percent); the rest are two-bedroom and two-bedroom-plus-a-den homes. This is the fourth property Edenshaw has proposed in the area. The three other proposals sit at heights closer to the existing zoning restrictions.
The drawings for the proposed building show the difference in height between the project and the existing community.
(Edenshaw Queen Developments Ltd.)
In 2017, Mississauga endorsed a specific housing plan called Making Room for the Middle. It is aimed at encouraging housing units for families who need more than three bedrooms after seeing a lack of supply in the city. Councillor Stephen Dasko says what Edenshow is proposing would not be beneficial to “end users.” The community is aging and is one of the older areas of Mississauga.
An abundance of schools and amenities nearby are perfect for families, but many of those households need more than two bedrooms.
Questions were raised about why so many units are needed. Dasko asked who the units would be marketed toward, end-users or investors.
David Sajecki, of Sajecki Planning, a consultant for the developer and the lead for the project, brushed off the question explaining the owners of Edenshaw would know better. Sajecki is co-founder of the firm, along with his father Ed, who is the former longtime commissioner of planning for the City of Mississauga and the architect of the city’s transformation from its more suburban planning approach.
It seems the Sajeckis miscalculated the community’s willingness to embrace the type of hyper-verticality the senior Sajecki helped create when he worked in Mississauga City Hall and for what is now the City of Toronto.
“I'm asking the question when I actually know the answer, and it was predominantly marketed as an investment vehicle, not for an end user,” Dasko replied.
The lack of parking was also heavily criticized by councillors and members of the public who attended the meeting. Edenshaw is proposing four levels of underground parking with 474 spaces for residents and 114 spots for visitor and commercial space. Even with the access to LRT and GO trains, council members are skeptical people will solely rely on transit.
“I know from talking to other folks, I think we all know people that buy units for investment. One thing that they find to be an impediment is to kick in for an extra $80,000 to $100,000 for a parking spot. So that could probably be why people don't want those extra parking spaces,” Dasko said.
The Ward 1 councillor said he “pleaded” with Metrolinx to not sell the land, hoping some parameters could have been negotiated ensuring parking and height restrictions were worked into the transaction.
The sale of the land to Mississauga or the Region of Peel also could have allowed for the creation of affordable housing. Metrolinx says because the responsibility for affordable housing falls to municipalities, there was no reason for the agency to include any provision for affordable units as part of the sale to Edenshaw.
There are no affordable housing units proposed in the Edenshaw plan.
“As stated in Ontario Government’s Growth Plan, affordable housing policies and mandates fall within the scope of municipalities. Therefore, affordable housing provisions were not included in the sale,” a Metrolinx spokesperson said in an email.
The Region is in dire need of more affordable units. The Region of Peel’s centralized waitlist grew 88 percent in two years, reaching 28,227 households who need affordable places to live at the end of 2021. Mississauga has the most households on the waitlist with 11,457 families in need of homes or rental places that are not more than 30 percent of their income.
The Region has two affordable housing plans on the go; the first is on life support. The Home for All plan was promised in 2018 to create 7,500 new housing units per year until 2028. The Housing Master Plan (endorsed in 2019) paints a more realistic picture for 5,650 rental units, 226 temporary support units and 60 shelter beds by 2034.
The Pointer confirmed in a previous article both the Region and the City were aware of the land, but neither stepped up to buy it.
“While the prospect that the land could be sold by Metrolinx for development was raised with staff, formal notification of the sale of the land was only given to the City in early April 2021, shortly before the land was sold,” Andrew Whittemore Mississauga’s commissioner of planning and building, previously told The Pointer.
Councillor Carolyn Parrish asked Sajecki to explain why the developer was proposing such a drastic height increase. He replied that the height restrictions put in place by Mississauga are outdated.
“The 22 storeys is based on the Port Credit Local Area plan… the plan was approved, I believe, in 2014/2015. It was developed previous to that. A lot has changed in the past seven years,” he said.
Parrish believes Edenshaw wanted to outbid other developers, which is why it strayed from what local planning stipulated.
“There must have been several people bidding on that piece of property. They were all bidding, monetary values that would suit 25-storey buildings,” she said to Sajecki. “So you go in and you bid low or high and then you go to 40 storeys, everybody around you is scratching their head and if you get away with this, why can't we all do that?”
Edenshaw did not reply to The Pointer’s questions about what Parrish said.
Developers routinely ask for more height in Mississauga. Cities previously could exempt height restrictions under Section 37 of the Planning Act if developers struck a deal to create affordable units. Now, the provincial government has changed the Act forcing municipalities to request no more than four percent of the land value from developers to be used by the municipality to create affordable units.
“Staff are not aware of the cost of the land acquisition by Edenshaw Developments. An appraisal will be conducted at the time of building permit issuance to determine the land value and the Community Benefits Charge will be based on that,” Whittemore told The Pointer in an email.
Another Edenshaw project is currently being built directly across the street from the GO parking lot.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)
Metrolinx declined to provide the price of the land citing “commercial sensitivity.”
“Releasing this type of information could potentially jeopardize the integrity of future commercial land deals. For those reasons, we are unable to disclose how much the property was sold for,” a spokesperson told The Pointer.
When the land was sold to Edenshaw it was a missed opportunity for the municipality. Mississauga or Peel could have bought it from the province and flipped it to developers with a requirement to build some affordable units.
“The applicant has not put forward any proposal to deal with the City’s Housing Strategy to date. Staff have requested more information with respect to the submitted Housing Report,” Whittemore said.
The Ontario Realty Directive states that when property publicly owned by the Province is no longer useful to the public body that used it, the land must be offered first to public institutions and other recognized entities on a list before putting it on the open market.
The proposal has no mention of affordable units despite being located in a MTSA. Mississauga has not passed its inclusionary zoning (IZ) policy, which if in place, would have forced Edenshaw to sell four percent of the units as affordable. The land at 88 Park Street would have applied if Mississauga had the policy.
Inclusionary zoning is marketed as one of the tools available to municipalities to force developers to provide affordable units. Building housing is not something the municipal tax was supposed to fund and for the Region it is the second largest expense in its annual budget after the Peel Regional Police. Often developers won’t offer up subsidized housing because it can chew into potential profits.
The inclusionary zoning bylaw will only be applied to certain developments around major transit station areas. The approach will not take effect right away but be phased in over a two-year period.
(The City of Mississauga)
Recently the draft IZ bylaw was approved by the Planning and Development Committee with hopes it will be ratified by City Council in August. It would take effect January 1, 2023.
According to the draft bylaw, if IZ was in effect when Edenshaw proposed the towers, the maximum amount of affordable units would have been 10 percent of the stock, or 114 units. Rental buildings only require five percent of the units to be affordable under the IZ policy.
Unfortunately, these numbers are moot. Edenshaw is far enough in the process that it will be exempt from providing affordable units. Previously, Mayor Crombie told The Pointer she would encourage the company to provide some affordable units.
Council members are fearful that should they continue to push back against the proposed project, it could end up before the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), an adjudicative body that deals with land disputes and typically favours developers.
“The other thing that scares me is your owner [Edenshaw] will now go to the OLT, and, God help us, might get it. And I feel badly for Councillor Dasko,” Parrish told Sajecki.
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